Washington is about to get its first official waste watchdog. President-elect Barack Obama recently tapped Nancy Killefer to fill the newly created role of chief performance officer. Killefer, a senior director at management-consulting firm McKinsey & Co., will be in charge of combing through the federal budget to weed out unnecessary programs and streamline government efficiency.
The position, which Obama has described as one of the most important in his Administration, is part of a new initiative to control federal spending, reform massive government entitlement programs and curb the pork-barrel spending that has contributed to the country's budget-deficit crisis.
Killefer, 55, is a graduate of Vassar College and MIT's Sloan School of Management, where she earned a master's in business administration. She is married to Georgetown University economics professor Robert Cumby and has two teenage children.
She joined McKinsey & Co. in 1979 and currently heads the firm's public-sector practice, where she develops strategies for improving organizational effectiveness for government clients.
She took a hiatus from her work at McKinsey from 1997 to 2000 to serve as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Clinton Administration, where she led a major modernization of the Internal Revenue Service. Clinton later appointed her to the IRS Oversight Board.
Despite her extensive knowledge of the system, she ran afoul of the IRS in 2005 when it placed a $946 tax lien on her home, accusing her of failing to pay unemployment compensation tax for her household employees. Killefer was cleared shortly thereafter.
"If you are willing to embrace significant change, then you're looking at the right person. But if you just want to keep the trains running on time, don't ask me to do this job."
when offered her first position in the Treasury in 1997, Washington Post, Jan. 7, 2009
"Sit on your hands if you have to, but consulting is 75% listening."
in a speech to Harvard Business School students, HARBUS, March 15, 2004
"If we want our government to do more and do better, we must take public management and productivity more seriously. Otherwise, citizen demands for effective government in the future will go unheeded."
writing in BuisnessWeek on the government's need to boost its effectiveness, March 14, 2006
"When I get something in the mail from the IRS, I just pay it. I don't have time. But if I knew I could call in and not be put on hold forever, I'd call."
after the IRS launched its first open house in 1997, which gave taxpayers an opportunity to discuss issues with IRS representatives face-to-face, TIME magazine, Nov. 24, 1997
"I have seen it done."
on fixing bureaucracy's entrenched problems, Associated Press, Jan. 7, 2009
"She's got a good understanding of how government works and what the challenges are."
John Koskinen, former colleague in the Treasury Department, on Killefer's qualifications for the chief-performance-officer role, Associated Press, Jan. 7, 2009
"Her selection demonstrates real commitment to changing Washington by ensuring lofty campaign ideals are not forgotten when governing begins."
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, on Killefer's appointment, Washington Post, Jan. 7, 2009
"She did make an error having to do with district unemployment tax payment, but it has been corrected."
Obama transition spokesman Tommy Vietor, on Killefer's run-in with the IRS, Associated Press, Jan. 7, 2009